KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Aug 10 2011

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Fighting product saturation?

It’s not only homeowners feeling overwhelmed at all the choices—as a design professional, I’m feeling it, too. I’ve been joking lately that it’s not only the multiple colors, shapes and sizes; it’s also the increasing eyestrain from reading all the small print.

In a non-scientific observation, I’d say I’m spending 20% more of my time helping clients through the selection process, and another 15% reading and working through the installation quirks. None of that covers any research for products I haven’t used yet, and it all feels like an addition to the 100% capacity I’m already working at.

Here are a few things I’ve learned the hard way that I hope will help you, especially if you’re new to the design field:

1. Know your clientele. I recently helped a client select a cubix-style large-scale tile for behind the range in her conservative, suburban home—a tile that an urban client in a neighborhood of contemporary homes would have loved. My mistake was listening to the wish when I knew better, and it ended up being a waste of both of our time. While you may secretly wish that you had the clientele to design the Italian sleek you always wanted, if your area isn’t there, here’s my suggestion: move…or wait until the next generation of younger homeowners replaces the old.

2. Avoid the technically challenging, unless your trades are up to the task. The plethora of high-end designs appearing online and in magazines has led the average clientele to think that every trade is capable of installing the product. No, no and no. If your plumber or contractor (or yourself) knows nothing about the quirks of a tankless toilet, someone is going to make a mistake during that first time AND you’ll be working overtime. I recently mentioned a tale in my blog of a European lavatory console where the plumber assembled it as best he could and dropped a handful of nuts and bolts in my hand. “I couldn’t figure out where these go,” he confessed. It’s up to you to figure out what everyone is capable of…or, if you’re going to push the envelope, to know the installation inside-and-out to be able to explain it logically.

3. Study new design, but don’t show your client everything. This is really a culmination of the first two. Study at least one new product a week. Spend time in forums to learn about other trades and their challenges—but don’t show off the knowledge to your client if it isn’t pertinent. While an acrylic tub is interesting, I doubt my Baby Boomer clients in their 1980 tract homes will be interested.

What are you doing to stay above this rising flood of design and product?

Until next time,


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